How to avoid spring cleaning injuries

Every year, it’s traditional to give our homes a thorough top-to-bottom cleaning – not to mention tidying things up in the garden – in preparation for the summer.

But spring cleaning can be strenuous work, and if you’re not careful you could end up with a nasty injury.

According to Steven Berkman, chartered physiotherapist and owner of Boost Physio in north London, spring sees an influx of people to the clinic who’ve injured themselves cleaning or gardening. And the biggest complaints include shoulder, neck and back problems, as well as aches and pains and a general feeling of physical exhaustion after overdoing it.

Thankfully, Steven has plenty of advice on how to keep spring cleaning injuries to a minimum, even if you’re tackling a deep clean.

“Before you get the mop and dusters out, make sure your body is ready to tackle this very physical task – just like with any physical activity it’s always good to warm up,” recommends Steven.

“A brisk walk around the block will get your muscles ready, and a quick stretch can prepare your muscles for the demands of heavy cleaning and lifting. On the plus side, while physically challenging, spring cleaning can be as good as doing a workout if you do it properly. But you need to be careful.”

Spring cleaning safety tips

Whatever the time of year, if you’re planning a spot of cleaning or gardening, Steven’s team of physiotherapists suggests the following to keep you injury free:

  • Do little and often, take lots of breaks, drink lots of water and don’t push through the pain barrier if something hurts, stop, rest and ask yourself if this is a temporary ache or something more serious.
  • Know your vulnerable areas, if you already have problems with your back don’t put any unnecessary strain on it, you’ll only pay the price for it by possibly causing a worse injury.
  • Everyone likes a clean home but you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Can you delegate some of the tasks? People like to help and now would be a good time to enlist some willing helpers.
  • Get help with heavy lifting, and try not to lift over your head, two people are better than one when there is a lot of lifting to do. Repeatedly lifting your arms over your head can cause trouble to the shoulder area, you can strain muscles or worse.
  • Remember, always bend your knees when you lift. Lift through your legs not from your back. If you are straining to lift a box use two boxes instead of one, instead of lifting one heavy, tightly packed box.
  • If you have problems with your knees, or even if you don’t, use a cushion or knee pad if you are scrubbing floors or weeding in the garden, and don’t reach too far. While it’s good to stretch it’s not good to put strain on your neck or back by stretching too far. Same goes for cleaning windows, stand on a ladder at the level with the window.
  • Don’t walk on wet floors, many accidents are caused from slipping on spillages and wet floors. Accidents from slipping can be extremely painful and can lead to torn ligaments and even breaks. Before you wash the floor, make yourself a cup of tea, put it in another room. Wash the floor. Leave the wet floor and go and sit down, have a rest, enjoy the tea while the floor dries.
  • If you find your muscles tensing up now might be the time to ask for a back rub or again do some simple stretches to loosen up your aching muscles.

Most importantly, don’t try to soldier on if you do suffer even a mild injury, says Steven. “Mild discomfort can quickly lead to serious pain if you ignore it,” he says. “If you are in a lot of pain, do not hesitate to get professional help.”

Your local Careway pharmacist can give you lots of advice about treating muscle and joint pain. They can also recommend and supply products that may provide relief, such heat rubs and sprays, cold gels, soothing balms, pain relief gels and painkillers in patches and tablet form.

Find your nearest pharmacy at www.careway.co.uk/find-a-pharmacy.

If you’re interested in seeing a physiotherapist, ask your GP for a referral or search the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy’s Physio2u directory to find a private practice in your area. Meanwhile, there’s lots more information about staying injury free at www.boostphysio.com